From our eight favorite books from the year — one for each night of Hanukkah — we present two below. They are all great holiday gifts for the passionate cook in your life or a treat for yourself.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
by Deb Perelman, Knopf, 336 pages, $35
Enormous, crispy oven latkes? Sweet potato blintzes with farmer cheese? Delicate sweet-and-sour brisket with tender root vegetables? Subtly sweet raspberry rugelach? “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook,” by culinary mastermind and cult favorite blogger Deb Perelman, has all these sumptuous recipes, written in the tone of a good friend offering holiday advice.
“The Smitten Kitchen,” is gorgeously laid out, with dozens of photographs that will make you want to head to your oven lickety-split. Perelman has formulas for everything from calzones to grapefruit pound cake. One look at the table of contents will give any home cook a host of new ideas for holiday dinners and laidback brunches, dinner party desserts and cozy night-in spreads. An added perk is that most of the recipes are new, so you won’t find them on Perlman’s website.
While some of the book’s recipes are not kosher, Perelman has included a separate category in the index for Jewish recipes, to make flipping through for Hanukkah dishes easier. It’s an ideal gift for the dedicated home cook looking to expand his or her repertoire. Just watch out: We bet there’ll be a lot more figs, olive oil and sea salt challah and rhubarb hamantaschen in your life after you gift this cookbook.
— Margaret Eby
Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine: Healthy, Simple & Stylish
by Helen Hash, Overlook Hardcover, 368 pages, $35
For three decades, Jewish home cooks looking to add a bit of sophistication and flair to their Shabbat (and weeknight) dinner tables, have turned to Helen Nash, an early advocate of the notion that kosher food could be gourmet. (That idea may seem commonplace today, but when Nash first started publishing books in the late-1980s, kosher food in America was decidedly stuck in the realm of all things heavy, greasy and Old World.) Nash learned to cook as a newlywed under the tutelage of world-renowned chefs like Marcella Hazan and Michael Field, taking their wisdom and infusing it with a Jewish and kosher-friendly lens. Her newest book, written in honor of her late-husband, financier Jack Nash, brings her trademark fusion of kosher cuisine and stylish preparation to the everyday. The recipes merge traditional flavors and innovative ones, offer creative, healthy twists on classic dishes, and take the fuss out of elegant entertaining. Her sweet-tart apricot soufflé, for example, comes together with remarkable ease, and the cookbook’s other recipes — including Asian-inspired brown rice and tofu salad, ginger-spiced short ribs, and a pureed beet soup sharpened with apple cider vinegar — continue to push the boundaries of what kosher dining can — and arguably should — taste like.
— Leah Koenig